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Blast from the past of steel's heyday

| Friday, July 8, 2005

A U.S. Steel sign that previously graced the exterior of Chiodo's Tavern in Homestead was welcomed home Thursday.

The 10-foot-by-10-foot, 1,500-pound, stainless-steel sign now hangs at the historic Pump House at The Waterfront complex, which sits on the former Homestead Works site.

Actor David Conrad, an Edgewood native, purchased the massive marker for $4,000 at an auction April 24 and donated it to the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.

Officials from Steel Industry Heritage Corp., a nonprofit group that oversees Rivers of Steel, held a dedication ceremony yesterday for the sign -- emblazoned with the words "In Honor of the Employees" and a U.S. Steel logo in the center.

"We're glad to have had the opportunity to be part of an effort to save it and keep it from going to collectors in some other region or another part of the country," said Augie Carlino, president and CEO of Steel Industry Heritage Corp. "This sign being right across the street from U.S. Steel is symbolic and, hopefully, it will memorialize and become a monument for steelworkers."

The sign was among an eclectic mix of items -- ranging from German gas masks to hockey sticks -- that once adorned Chiodo's and were auctioned off after the tavern closed in March to make way for a Walgreen's drug store.

"I just wanted to make sure it (the sign) stayed here," Conrad said. "It says 'In Honor Of' -- and I don't think there's enough in this part of the world that gives the apt tribute to the people who built it. If there's any small, little way I can leave in memory the people who made it happen, the money from a crappy TV show is worth it."

Conrad was a regular in the NBC television series "Miss Match" and had a recurring role in the TV drama "Boston Public." He also appeared in the movie "Men of Honor," starring Robert DeNiro and Cuba Gooding Jr.

"When David said he wanted the sign permanently erected somewhere public, we thought we'd put it here temporarily," said Carlino of Steel Industry Heritage. "But once we got it here, everybody in the community told us that this was the best place, and we decided not to move it. The sign will stay here forever as we work to improve the area around it and move toward making this a national park site."

Chiodo's played a prominent role in festivities yesterday.

Marsha Anderson, a cook at the tavern for 22 years, served up Chiodo's famous Mystery Sandwiches one more time.

"Who really knows if this will be the last time?" she said. "I guess if they call me out here to do something like this again and I'm not busy working somewhere else, then I'll come out."

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